WASHINGTON — U.S. Capitol Police converged Wednesday on a small manned aircraft that has landed on the west front of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. Police have taken the pilot into custody.
“The U.S. Capitol Police is investigating a gyro copter with a single occupant that has landed on the grassy area of the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. The U.S. Capitol Police continues to investigate with one person detained and temporary street closures in the immediate area,” said Capitol Police Lt. Kimberly Schneider in a statement to CNN.
According to White House spokesman Eric Schultz, the President has been briefed on the situation.
The Tampa Bay Times is reporting that the pilot is a mailman from Florida who planned the flight to protest the Supreme Court decision in Citizens’ United case and the influence of outside money in politics. He told the Times that he wanted to deliver mail to lawmakers outlining his complaints.
The paper is reporting it called Secret Service and Capitol Hill police before he flew. The reporter who spoke before the flight has been tweeting from Washington as the postal worker landed.
The Capitol Police, however, have not disclosed his identity. They did say he is in custody for questioning and they’re seeking to find out whether the landing was due to a mechanical issue or some other issue.
A friend of the pilot who says he’s known the man for years tells CNN that “there’s nothing on the helicopter that is dangerous” and that the this flight was meant to send a message to Congress about campaign finance reform.
“He has no weapons or anything else,” said Michael Shanahan. “I know him personally. He’s like a pitbull when he has an idea. He wants to wake up the country.”
Shanahan said the pilot called him before he took off.
“He’s upset that politicians can be bought and sold at auction, and I agree with him. That’s the point he’s trying [to make]” Shanahan added.
“Happy he made it alive. I want to thank the people who decided not to kill him.”
According to the FAA, this is restricted airspace and the individual did not get special permission to fly in this airspace. And a U.S, Defense official tells CNN NORAD was not involved. FAA would have contacted them for any military assets to be activated in response to this, and that contact was never made.
The building is no longer in lockdown, and the Senate Sergeant at Arms tells CNN that everything is under control.
At the moment of its landing, however, the Capitol was thrown into chaos.
Outside of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing room, a half-dozen police were running through the hallways, speaking into their radios about a lockdown. In the room waited Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who had stopped by for a photo op and was posing a challenge for officers discussing safe ways to get the prime minister out of the building if necessary.
Homeland Security Chairman Mike McCaul was on the first floor of the Capitol with aides when the building was briefly locked down, but he hadn’t heard about the incident until CNN asked him. He decided to go outside and see the aircraft for himself, and Capitol Police let him through, despite the lockdown.
By Alexandra Jaffe
Rene Marsh, Jay McMichael, Ted Barrett, Athena Jones, Deirdre Walsh, Jim Acosta, Julie Zann and Jamie Crawford contributed to this report.